Bird flu surveillance area in place in Chatteris after confirmed case in Ely

Bird keepers urged to their bit to prevent spread of disease

By Stephen Briggs
Monday, 11th April 2022, 4:04 pm
The surveillance zones are in place after a case of bird flu was confirmed in the county
The surveillance zones are in place after a case of bird flu was confirmed in the county

A 10km surveillance zone has been put in place in Cambridgeshire to prevent the spread of bird flu after a case was confirmed in the county.

The confirmed case of avian influenza (bird flu) was found at a premises near Ely.

Now Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards team is working with DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to identify all poultry and captive birds in the area.

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Two disease control zones have been put in place surrounding the infected premises to try to stop the further spread of the disease – a 3km Protection Zone encompassing Pymoor and part of Little Downham, and a wider 10km Surveillance Zone which includes Ely, Littleport, Chatteris, Manea and Welney. A map of the protection and surveillance zones can be found at AI - Protection Zone and Surveillance Zone - declaration (publishing.service.gov.uk).

Keepers can also check where disease control zones are located in Great Britain and if they are in a zone using the APHA interactive map at https://defra.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=8cb1883eda5547c6b91b5d5e6aeba90d. Disease control zones are only lifted once all disease control and surveillance activities in the zones have been successfully completed and there are no suspect cases under investigation in the zones.

All bird keepers in the country were already required to adhere to National Avian Influenza Prevention Zone requirements which were put in place in November 2021, which include extensive biosecurity measures and the requirement to house all poultry and captive birds. The Protection Zone and Surveillance Zone introduce additional requirements, in particular extensive movement restrictions and a licensing regime.

All bird keepers, regardless of their location or size of their flock, should familiarise themselves with the requirements. Full guidance on all current requirements can be found at Avian influenza (bird flu) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and Avian influenza (bird flu): cases and disease control zones in England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). The full list of requirements for the local zones can be found in the Declaratory Order, which can be found at AI - Protection Zone and Surveillance Zone - declaration (publishing.service.gov.uk).

Cambridgeshire County Council has a role in supporting DEFRA and APHA as part of the national animal disease contingency plan, with its Trading Standards team responsible for identifying all captive birds within the Protection Zone.

From tomorrow (Tuesday 12 April), Trading Standards officers will be calling at homes within the zone to ascertain if birds are kept at that location. If they are, the information will be referred to APHA for veterinary assessment to determine if a health check on the birds is required. All officers will produce photo ID, will not enter your home, nor will they need to view any birds.

Trading Standards is also responsible for enforcement if any of the rules within the National Avian Influenza Prevention Zone or the Declaratory Order are breached. These rules are there to protect not only livelihoods and valuable commercial bird stocks, but also much loved pets, and with such a virulent strain it is vital bird keepers adhere to them. Anyone with concerns about breaches should report the information to Cambridgeshire County Council’s customer services team on 0345 045 5206.

Road signs marked ‘Animal Disease Control Zone’ will also be erected by the council on behalf of APHA in the coming week to make bird transporters aware they are entering an animal disease control zone. With the exception of some transporters moving to export, they continue to be able to pass through the zone, but generally speaking they are not able to stop within the zone.

Peter Gell, Assistant Director for Regulatory Services at Cambridgeshire County Council, said “I would encourage all poultry keepers to familiarise themselves with, and do their utmost to comply with, all restrictions now in place. We are a rural county, blessed with a wide range of commercial bird keepers. Their livelihoods and health of their flocks depend on all bird keepers – large and small - doing their bit to prevent the further spread of this disease.”

“Check your birds frequently for symptoms of bird flu– know the tell-tale signs and immediately report any ill-health to your veterinarian. If you suspect bird flu you should contact the DEFRA Rural Services helpline on 03000 200 301.”

Bird keepers with 50 or more birds must register their flock with APHA, but all bird keepers are actively encouraged to register, even if they have less than 50 birds, as it enables APHA to keep you up to date with avian influenza developments. You can also sign up to DEFRA’s animal disease text alert service. APHA is also encouraging all bird keepers to view their ‘Stop the Spread’ webinars available here ‘Stop the spread’ webinars - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Defra will also be writing to all households in the Surveillance Zone reminding them of the risk to poultry and captive birds and asking them to voluntarily register their flocks. There is a requirement to undertake surveillance in these zones for at least three months.

If keepers are in one of these zones, they may be contacted at any time during this period to advise that they have been selected at random for a surveillance visit, so APHA visits will continue even when the disease control zones have been lifted.

In terms of the risk to public health, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to human health is very low. Nevertheless, the public are being asked not to touch dead birds but should report them to DEFRA by calling 03459 33 55 77.

The Food Standards Agency has also stated that on the basis of current scientific evidence, bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are still safe to eat.